Clark’s Road Trip Hack: Renting a Car vs. Driving Your Own

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One of the enduring challenges of travel is trying to save money while still having a great time. A great way to travel for less is to drive rather than fly to your destination.

Of course, if you choose to drive rather than fly, you will need to build in more travel time. If you’ve decided that’s OK, you may think you’re all set. But you still have another car decision to make: Do you drive your own car or rent one?

Money expert Clark Howard says that you could save money in the long run if you rent a car for travel rather than driving your own.

Renting a Car vs. Driving Your Own on Vacation

“Instead of driving your own vehicle on your vacation, rent one,” Clark says. “Particularly if you’re going in a seven-day block, renting a vehicle could be a lot cheaper than effectively putting all those additional miles on your own vehicle.”

Another advantage is the opportunity to tailor the size of the vehicle to you needs. “Let’s say you need a larger or smaller vehicle or a different kind for your trip than what you own. Renting one can just work out so, so well,” he says.

Why It’s Sometimes Cheaper to Rent a Car Rather Than Drive Your Own

Understandably, you may be concerned about paying extra to rent a car rather than taking your own. Here are three reasons why it may be best to rent a car:

1. More Miles Can Hurt Your Resale Value

If you drive your own car, the additional miles you put on it will literally be driving down the resale value of your vehicle.

If you shop and find a good deal on a rental car, you put those trip miles and the depreciation that goes with it on that rental car instead of your own,” Clark says.

2. More Miles Mean More Maintenance and Repairs

Those highway miles may end up costing you more money than renting. The result? It means you’re closer to another maintenance visit to your mechanic — or maybe even a repair.

“Figure putting miles on your vehicle — at a minimum — at 50 cents a mile,” Clark says.

3. A Rental May Have Better Gas Mileage

A rental car may get you better gas mileage, which translates to lower fuel costs for your trip.

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Of course, it depends on which make and model you choose, but the market for car rentals favors consumers right now, Clark says.

“Car rental companies are feeling pressure from people not renting cars like they used to. They’re using Uber or Lyft instead of renting a car. That has softened up demand for the car rental industry. It has made the deals the best they’ve been in a long while on car rentals,” he says.

Conclusion

You still need to shop around and see if renting makes financial sense based on how far you’ll drive and how many days you’ll be away. Do your homework when looking for a car rental.

“Not every time, every date, every situation will you find a car rental to be cheaper, but usually you will, compared to the effective cost of putting those miles on your own vehicle,” Clark says.

Want to learn more about how to save when you travel? Here’s how to get the best car rental deal.

More Car Rental Resources From Clark.com:

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